Chevroches, Canal du Nivernais

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Next Year

We might.......

get a uniform...

grow a garden....

...or even finally make it to France - one way or another!

Thanks to everyone who's taken the time to follow our trip over this summer. Join us again next year when it'll be even bigger and better!!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Last Days - cruising to our winter berth in Leimuiden

Last close encounter.

Last barbie. In the rain but we had a pile of chops and sausages in the freezer which we'd been saving for a (non) rainy day.

Last kibbeling (deep fried pieces of cod) - with mayonnaise of course. A hugely popular snack sold from fish vans at markets. This was at Leiden. Our second visit there. Last time was at the height of summer and the town was crowded with tourists.

Last port before home - Leaving Leiden harbour.

Last moments of voyage. Arriving at Kempers Marina, Leimuiden. L'Avenir's berth for the winter.

Last drama. Cleaning the mud off the bikes after fishing them out of the water where they'd been blown during a storm. Fortunately the water was fairly shallow.

And finally-

Last goodbyes. Winter covers on L'Avenir and our bags packed.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Last Locks

As we near the end of this year's trip there are the inevitable 'last times' for things. Sometimes those occasions make us feel a little sad and others evoke (from me anyway) a sigh of relief, a silent thank goodness that's over and a not so silent 'Don't ever ask me to do that again.' The final in the latter category being crossing the main shipping channel of the Amsterdam Rijn Canal. This is the main North South route for commercial traffic, is exceedingly busy and pleasure craft are advised to use alternative routes if at all possible. We needed to cross over it to get from the canal from Utrecht to the canal and river (Hollandse Ijssel) taking us to Gouda. It's not far - a lock taking you down a metre or so to the level of the channel, a couple of hundred metres directly across it and then another lock up onto the Hollandse Ijssel. I often think that locks are a bit like the Tardis (ok that might be a bit of a long shot but we've been watching Freeview tv all summer and Dr Who is one of the better offerings). You might be cruising along past picturesque 18th century buildings and windmills, through ornate cast iron opening bridges each being hauled up manually by some bridge keeper trundling from one to the next on his bicycle. As you motor through a pair of lock gates and secure the boat to the side of the chamber the gates swing shut behind you. The boat engine is switched off and you seem to be in limbo - neither one place nor another. The deeper the lock the greater the illusion. There's a wait as the lock either fills or empties, the only sounds being water dripping, trickling and then gushing. Then silence again. After a minute or so the forward gates swing open and quite possibly it's not only the water level that's changed. You may have been propelled into the 21st century and there are container ships coming at high speed from both sides and you just have to take a deep breath and go for it. Of course you could be going the other way which is much more relaxing. We followed a smallish cruiser into the lock leading onto the Amsterdam Rijn Canal. The lock keeper established that we were heading straight across the channel to the opposite canal and then went off to do her thing. As we were hanging onto ropes the Dutch skipper of the other boat asked me where we were heading. 'Follow me,' he said, 'and make sure to look left and right.' Meanwhile I couldn't help but notice the ships zooming past. Would there be a big enough gap? What if we broke down? ' Oh,' he called out as he started his engine, 'don't forget to hold on. It's very.....' and he did a bit of a jig and waved his arms up and down. And it was - very. I was stuck out at the bow looking out for speeding ships and had no option but to stay there for the few minutes crossing. No pictures because - well, you know the rest.......

Our last lock into Gouda looking back to the tidal River Ijssel. We thought we'd seen every type of lock but this one proved us wrong. Instead of gates that swing open it has a guillotine gate which lifts and gives you a shower as you pass underneath.

-and then the gate opens and you step back in time into an historic town harbour.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Dutch Courage

This is our second visit to Gouda and we were a little surprised to find the lovely square throbbing with the loud music and lights of a fair. So we joined the crowds and fortified by a little Dutch courage in the form of a large G and T (thank you Mike and Nicky) took to the skies, flying high above the spires of the church and the stadhuis. Not quite as scary as anticipated but beleieve me it's cold up there. No pictures of the amazing view from the top because - you've guessed it - we were clinging on for dear life.

and this is how it looked by day.

This manic waltzer - The Break Dance - was actually scarier despite being at ground level. My back is still sore from bracing myself.

With the usual Dutch efficiency this was the scene in the square first thing on Monday morning - all traces of the fair scrubbed and polished away.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Caption Competition

No, I have absolutely no idea either. As it is in Gouda (I'd have liked it to be in Assen) I'm assuming it's not Simpson and his donkey though.
Keep it clean please.....

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Cruising through Utrecht

The posts seem to have become a little mixed up and any element of surprise lost. We obviously made it through the bridges with minimal damage - only a scraped handrail.

We lowered the canopy, nav frame and windscreens,

crossed our fingers and ducked.

lots of bridges.

The Indian restaurant where we had dinner the night before. Last year Rob was on a beer tour this year's quest has been for the perfect vindaloo. Not bad here.

-and as always in Holland there's an army of people keeping everything nice.

canal garbos scooping leaves out of the water

and wharf cleaners blowing them in.....

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Utrecht Bridges

The bridges over the canal through Utrecht are only 3.25m high so we are a bit nervous (well I am) about our ability to get through. We'll have to take down our canopy, nav frame and windscreen - and then duck!

The first bridge
The lock keeper tells us we'll be fine as long as we can get through the first bridge as it's the lowest.

The canal basin with lock in the background. If we can't fit under the city bridges we'll have to turn around and go back.

Entrance to the tunnel

I'm more concerned about the tunnel in the centre of the city as it has a bend. It's also the focal point for the whole city and overlooked by cafes full of people hoping for some entertainment. The Dutch Film Festival is in full swing at the moment as well and there are people doing interviews to camera on every corner so any stuff up is bound to find its way onto film. It seems I always have to be worried about something.


The old part of Utrecht is lovely though. It's a university city so full of life and bicycles - well it will be later in the day anyway.

The canal runs at a lower level than the city streets and there are trendy bars and restaurants at both levels.

A Tight Squeeze - Utrecht's Canal Tunnel

Through the tunnel in the centre of Utrecht.

- and since the Film Festival is on here's my contribution.....

Miffy the Rabbit

Dick Bruna, creator of Miffy, is one of Utrecht's favourite sons.

What greater accolade could any author have? 



Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Cruising the River Vecht to Utrecht

What a contrast to the week on the meers! As soon as we passed through the lock at Muiden onto the River Vecht everything changed. Not least the weather. We've had a week of balmy, autumnal days to cruise this lovely river.

You could easily do it in a day or 2 but there's something about a slow moving river in the sunshine that makes you want to relax (with beer and book) and take your time.

We are not far from Amsterdam here and the river is lined with magnificent mansions and stately homes built long ago by the wealthy merchants of that city and now occuppied by their present day equivalents. Probably financiers....

The houses have the beautiful manicured gardens common to most Dutch homes but on a much grander scale with sweeping lawns, formal rose gardens, statues and topiary.

Some even have moats and draw bridges-
or ferries

Here's one for sale if you have a spare few million (euros that is).
Lifting bridge, Weesp

We stopped at several of the villages on the way through and took to our bikes to explore the countryside.

This region has always been of strategic importance so there are fortifications from different eras; medieval castles, forts from the 19th century and WW2 gun emplacements and shelters.

As ever there are plenty of churches with their tuneful carillons marking the passage of time, this church at Maarseen joltimg us into consciousness and its parishioners into action each morning with Waltzing Matilda of all things!